Here’s a lighthearted jest: Why is a green city adept at playing basketball? Because it boasts the finest “green defense” — consistently blocking waste and making clean shots!
Humor aside, cities play a central role in human society. Oct. 31, 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of World Cities Day, which is celebrated annually to provide an opportunity to appreciate the diverse, innovative, and dynamic nature of cities around the world.
During such celebrations, people could gain valuable insights from the efforts made by some model cities in their ongoing journey toward sustainable urban development. Such knowledge can serve as a valuable resource for cities worldwide as they advance their goals for sustainable development.
The 2023 World Cities Day China Observance kicked off in Shanghai on Oct. 29. Five cities from around the world, including Australia’s Brisbane, China’s Fuzhou, Malaysia’s George Town of Penang, Uganda’s Kampala, and Brazil’s Salvador won the Global Award for Sustainable Development in Cities (Shanghai Award).
The Shanghai Award rewards cities that have made significant progress in pursuing economic vitality and urban prosperity, ecological and green development, urban security and resilience, and sustainable development.
“The Shanghai Award is important because it gives other cities around the world solutions to build on in sustainable development,” said Augusto Pestana, consul general of Brazil in Shanghai.
World Cities Day is the first international day on the theme of cities established by the United Nations (UN), while the Shanghai Award was jointly established by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the Shanghai government, aiming to recognize cities that offer integrated solutions to sustainable development.
According to an official document, 54 cities in 16 countries on five continents have submitted declarations. All shortlisted cities were invited to showcase a series of integrated urban sustainable solutions and effective practice cases involving broad multi-stakeholder participation.
The special day has provided a platform for global cities to share experiences that contributed to the building of a sustainable, inclusive, safe, and resilient world.
Take Brisbane as an example. The city has developed an ambitious and realistic vision into a long-term development plan. It has launched the new Brisbane Metro and the Kangaroo Point Green Bridge, and become the host city for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“For example, we’re introducing the new Brisbane Metro, a fully electric high-capacity mass transit system that will save 50,000 tonnes of emissions over 20 years but also get people where they want to go more efficiently,” said Adrian Schrinner, mayor of the city.
The fully electric, high-capacity metros will provide more travel options with easy links to bus and train services, and use the best technology to suit the city.
“We’re investing in green bridges with the Kangaroo Point Green Bridge to not only remove 80,000 cars a year from our roads but deliver a long-needed connection across the river from Brisbane’s CBD,” he said.
“We’re doing things for households like slashing the costs of green waste recycling bins to 1 dollar a week, making larger yellow-top recycling bins free, providing rebates for composting equipment, and expanding Brisbane’s food waste recycling scheme beyond the current 30 suburbs,” he said.
Given its unique coastline characteristics, the city has also planned many activities regarding marine conservation, with an aim to increase public awareness of climate change while rallying public support for the city’s sustainable development.
“In the future, World Cities Day will be built into an important platform for the world to publicize the concept of sustainable urban development and discuss cooperation to deal with various urban issues,” said Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN under-secretary-general and executive director of UN-Habitat.
World Cities Day brings together people who share a common goal — creating a better future for cities. It could help inspire cities to be more proactive in tackling their challenges through peer learning.
“World Cities Day provides an important platform for cities worldwide to exchange, cooperate, and learn from each other,” said Lin Baojin, member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Fujian Provincial Committee and secretary of the CPC Fuzhou Municipal Committee.
Fuzhou, a typical coastal megacity, has adopted a long-term low-carbon development model to develop its digital economy, marine industry, cultural tourism and other industries.
Once susceptible to natural disasters such as floods, heavy rains, and typhoons, Fuzhou has built a complete urban flood control and drainage system, providing a safe and resilient city for more than 8 million residents.
A typical example is the Liuhuaxi treatment project. It provides safe, livable and resilient urban settlements for 133,000 residents along the river.
The city has also promoted green city development through the City of Thousand Gardens initiative and established 18 sustainable development community pilot projects.
“Fuzhou will continue to adhere to the principle of building a city by the people and for the people, placing greater emphasis on ecological construction and green transformation,” Lin said, stressing the city’s dedication to high-quality development and effective governance.
“Fuzhou aims to become a modern international city and strives to provide the Fuzhou experience and its model as a contribution to the country and even the world, better supporting the Belt and Road Initiative and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind,” he said.